Monday, May 19, 2008

A vote unreported

The British Broadcasting Corporation appears to have failed to perceive the significance of one of the votes that took place in the HofC last night.

This second vote on an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill went as follows:

"Amendment proposed: No. 10, in page 4, line 14, at end insert—

‘(4A) A licence cannot authorise the creation of an embryo using—

(a) human gametes and animal gametes, or

(b) one human pronucleus and one animal pronucleus.’.—[Mark Simmonds.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 223, Noes 286."

According to the news reporters of the BBC, the vote went as follows:
"A cross-party attempt to ban hybrid human animal embryos was defeated on a free vote, by 336 to 176."

Although I am no scientist, this, as I have stated before, is a matter that concerns me greatly; and the 50 or so additional MPs who voted for this second amendment are to be commended on their vigilance and diligence. For a shameful debate was conducted with elements of blackmail in which MPs, many as unscientific as myself, were assured that medical progress would be halted if they objected.

It appears quite clear to me that the majority of the 286 MPs who voted against this second amendment were in ignorance of what they voted on; they followed their leaders as sheep. I exclude the likes of Dr Harris, who, it is clear to me, is well aware of his intentions and would undertake any venture to obstruct religious endeavours and advance the cause of unbridled science. For it does indeed allow the creation of chimaeras, of all manner of bizarre creatures, that may enjoy a short span of life in the laboratory until liberated by some accident or some scientist whose curiousity exceeds the law and wishes to examine in greater detail its progress.

I would not have wished to have been the minister to have sought to explain such matters to our Queen, a lady who desired simplicity of explanation and a sound Christian morality.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A moral vision?

There is a growing confusion within the mind of the Queen's ghillie and it is evident in his every utterance.

Yesterday the Prime Minister sought the support of the elders of his Church. From reports it seems he claimed to share its "vision" and this vision was for a "good society".

I hear that Mr Brown's father was a minister of this Church whilst my father abandoned the same Church when he emigrated to England. He lays claim to a welcome in its ranks, one which I forfeited when I sought its disestablishment - but that is a matter for another day.

Mr Brown stated, so far as it is possible to ascertain, that he believed the current generation would "...honour the dream of the scriptures: that justice will roll like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

In claiming a mandate from the Scriptures, he seeks to follow the path of his predecessor. Some time ago I castigated this man as a clanging bell following his address to the Catholic Church. I will for the moment set aside the question of whether justice and righteousness can be pursued by means of war, by costly investment in explosive substances.

As a son of the manse Mr Brown deserves to be treated with a modicum of seriousness. That I will do. I believe that both men perceive their movement to be influenced by Christian Socialism, to trace its roots to William Blake as much as Thomas Paine.

This was a noble movement that gave justification to Chartism and steered Labourism away from the curse of Karl Marx. Its heart is the belief in human equality, in the dignity of each person. God is "no respecter of persons" stated the Apostle Paul. You have made man "a little beneath the angels" stated the Psalmist. Those of us born to privilege did not always perceive so quickly that God is no respecter of privilege, that no man has a claim to more rights than any other man. Yet it was the teachings of the gospel that made slaves, that made working people demand their rights as human beings.

It is an honourable cause and an honourable history; but to lay claim to it is not, of necessity, to have an understanding of it.

It is distressing therefore that today Mr Brown has set himself against this Christian tradition, against the expressed concerns of many within many different churches. Indeed his learned article in The Observer highlights the curious double-mindedness to which I referred earlier. Mr Brown takes time out from his many duties to discuss a matter that is to go before the HofC tomorrow, a measure which proposes to allow scientists to create creatures who would be part-human, part-animal. It is stated that these creatures would never be allowed to be born and indeed would be extinguished at the 14th day of their existence, having been cultured outside the womb.

Mr Brown states not once but twice that he has respect for those who oppose this measure out of religious conviction. He then states that the scientists who wish to engage in this act of creation are engaged in a moral endeavour and will perform their work with a sincere respect for religious beliefs.

His argument is learned but it is not well-made; nor is it closely woven. Indeed it must be asked: did he write this piece in advance of writing his address to the Church of Scotland or after doing so? For in addressing the Church he stated that a consistent, ethical core within religions showed:
"...we are not moral strangers but there is a shared moral sense common to us all".

It must be conceded that at no point in his address did Mr Brown claim to have a religious faith of his own. Perhaps he does not; perhaps his quoting of Scriptures is merely another attempt to face several ways at once. An atheist, such as Mr Clegg, could have addressed the Church as he did.

Now to nub of the matter. Mr Brown's forebears affirmed the dignity of human beings as derived from these self-same Scriptures. Their successors within the Churches would appear to believe that the creation, within the laboratory, of embryos that are part human and part something else offends against this self-same human dignity; that it makes the creation of human life, the definition of humanity, as a matter that scientists can determine. I am no scientist but it is evident that the objectives that are sought from this research might well be achieved by other means, perhaps not so fast - although it is evidently misleading to state that there will be results and useable medicines or operations next year or the year after or even within a decade.

I am seeking to deal with Mr Brown in a reasonable manner even though every fibre within me screams in horror at the nature of the experiments that are to be performed. It is one of those matters that no Minister would have dared to broach with our dear Queen for fear of giving irrevocable offence to her sensibilities - and yet in this modern age it is a commonplace of discussion.

It is evident that his statements on Saturday and his writings on Sunday contradict each other. On Saturday there is a shared moral sense common to us all. On Sunday the moral sense of people of religion - and I suspect many others - is deeply flawed. It gains the respect of the Prime Minister but he cannot regard it as moral or ethical as he sets himself against it.

It is this Prime Minister who is deeply flawed, not the moral sense of those who have thought at greater length about such matters than him.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Advice taken!

I have castigated the former Chancellor, the Queen's ghillie, for his unwonted and ill-deserved reputation for competency within this high office.

The time has now come to give credit to his successor for paying heed to the advice that I proffered a mere three weeks ago.

Let us remember that Mr Brown declined to follow good advice and indeed revealed for all to see the hollowness of his Chancellorship, its dependence on conjuring and trickery, by his response to the clamour following the belated discovery by Parliament of his sleight of hand. For Mr Brown had proposed to scramble out of his predicament by offering more charity, some to the elderly, some to the poor and always nothing to some; for his scheme was unworkable and would have merely served to increase the complexity, nay the incomprehensibility of the taxation system.

My advice to Mr Darling was that he could resolve his problem while continuing in the government's stated, if ill-served, objective of simplification. He could reintroduce the 10 percent rate of tax, raise personal allowances or reduce the 20p rate a little more. And I stated: it is my belief, that a progressive Chancellor could, if events warranted it, recover his shortfall by reducing the threshold at which 40p becomes payable.

That is exactly what Mr Darling has done this day. He has raised personal allowances and reduced the threshold at which 40p in the pound becomes payable. These are measures which are progressive but not of necessity socialist.

It has taken too long for Mr Brown's government to come to this point. Mr Darling is nevertheless to be congratulated for taking my advice and, at last, demonstrating some competence within his office.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Not amongst the greatest

Peturbed as I am by the mismanagement of the exchequer by the Queen's ghillie I have spent some little time in examination of his history in office. I do so not out of any jealousy as to the title of longest-serving Chancellor, even though it appears that alongside his jiggery-pokery and knavery in office there are indeed spurious claims that the man held this office for longer than myself. I note for instance that the electronic encyclopaedia, Wikipaedia, states he was the longest serving Chancellor since the Baron Bexley. Now Mr Brown served for some ten years whilst, in total, I accomplished some 12 years and four months in this office. Indeed the noble Lord Bexley served for only ten years and seven months.

I grant that both these gentlemen made continuous service in office; my experience ranged over a period of some thirty years I fear. Indeed on two occasions I appointed myself to the office and it is to be fervently hoped that Mr Brown does not seek to follow my example.

I return to the matter of Mr Brown's record as Chancellor. In spite of the ill-earned sobriquet, Murderer of Gordon, once attached to me, I do not pretend to be making an "assassination", a successful demolition of a political record as I cannot claim at present to have the wherewithal for such devastation. Nevertheless it is alarming to see the extent to which this man has veered over the years from good practices of management of the Treasury.

For more than anyone I have yearned over the years to reduce the income tax and to ensure that the State does not penalise working people for their travails. Yet I would never do so by means of creating a multitude of new taxes for it is of the utmost importance that the working man knows what he pays to the State and what he is due for his payments.

Let us consider the reduction of the income tax, reduced by one penny in 2000 and by a further tuppence this year. It would be a small but notable achievement for a Chancellor; except two-thirds of the reduction has been rejected by the populace as a confidence trick.

What of the first penny? It was indeed reduced in 2000 and the reduction remained affordable for all of two years. It seems that within that two years, the Chancellor discovered he had need of that one penny but dared not reimpose it. So what sleight of hand does he use, what jiggery pokery, what knavery?

The listener must forgive me for piling word upon word. I do so only to emphasise the requirement for the Chancellor to be honest with the population and to set against it the alarming proposition that in the modern age Chancellors have come to be praised for their dishonesty, for their ability to juggle and deceive the eye.

For that is what transpired in 2002. The one penny tax was reimposed, indeed reimposed twice, but not under the name of "income tax" but using the new device of "National Insurance", which I hear was created as a worthy concept by my Liberal successors in order to pay pensions and medical treatment costs. The detail of this imposition is by and large irrelevant to my case, although it may be worth some exposition; in mitigation it should be stated that the one pence was levied on the full range of income - whilst the bulk of national insurance is levied only to a certain point and has therefore become a regressive tax; in further condemnation it must be stated it was removed twice from the pay-packets of those in employment, once as a direct payment from the worker, the second occasion as an increase in the levy paid by the employer.

Secondly, on the charge sheet, I must draw attention to events between 1999 and 2001. On the face of it Mr Brown sought to establish a new standard for Chancellors by making announcements a year or even two years before they are put into effect. In honest hands it would be praiseworthy. But as has been learnt over the last year, the effect may be to protect blameworthy proposals from parliamentary and public scrutiny.

In 1999 the Chancellor announced he would remove the tax allowance hitherto given to married couples and that removal would take effect the following year. It was to be replaced by a child tax credit to support couples, married or unmarried, with children; but the "tax credit" was not to be introduced until 2001.

I will not dwell on the iniquitous nature of the so-called tax credit system introduced by this Chancellor. I have observed before that it has merely created an army of clerks and to deny many thousands those earnings to which they are entitled. Indeed I fear it creates a nation of beggars, of supplicants who must seek the return of their earnings by the filling of multiple forms. It is perhaps a theme to which I will return.

Nor will I dwell on the removal of support for married couples. Let me state merely that it was to be expected from a socialist Chancellor, an heir of William Blake. It would have appalled our dear Queen but I fear from the present Monarch there is, with inevitability, only silence.

Nay, my concern in this exposition is the 12 months between 2000 and 2001. During this period additional taxes were paid by married couples and no subsidies were paid to families, whether married or not, to assist with the costs of raising children. It was another sleight of hand.

The Queen's ghillie may rank with those of us who held this office for many years; he may be amongst the longest-serving but he will not be among the greatest. Indeed these tricks and deceits have served to demean this high office in a way worthy only of the great trickster Beaconsfield himself.

Friday, May 2, 2008

No election yet

I fear that the Queen's ghillie will continue to delay the calling of an election following the results of ballots for the municipal authorities yesterday.

It is a severe humiliation for a progressive Minister that he should be rejected by the populace for not being progressive enough. Yet that is what has transpired - and it is a rejection of the socialist experiment rather than of progressive policies.

For in spite of my youthful loyalties, it peturbs me when the populace turns to the Conservative party; for in spite of its protestations this party will never deliver progress to the people. Indeed on the issue of the moment there is no evidence that the beating heart of Conservatism is anything but overjoyed that the poor have to pay more taxes.

Nevertheless it is a tribute to the democratic process when fiscal issues lie at the heart of the choices made by so many voters, by the people of England and Wales. For progress is delivered by the State behaving justly, not by the State overreaching its authority. Socialism creates an arrogance, a belief that the State can solve all problems and that the people must submit to its decisions, for good or ill. The present government may describe itself as "new" or even as "new old" - it is unclear exactly which - but it remains socialist at core and therefore prone to error.

As for the young Mr Clegg, he has survived his first test as leader and delivered modest advances for his party. There has been no calamity; although it is a matter of regret that the population did not give more credit to Mr Clegg and Mr Cable for delivering resistance to mistaken and regressive tax policies at the outset.

I am not acquainted with the present Monarch; but I am sure our dear Queen would have offered encouraging words to any youthful leader who bore such a great test with credit.